Who likely will be the Dawgs’ 2013 breakout players?

Tray Matthews, here seen with Mark Richt on signing day, looks to have locked up a starting spot on defense. (Associated Press)

Tray Matthews, here seen with Mark Richt on signing day, looks to have locked up a starting spot on defense. (Associated Press)

ESPN’s SEC Blog is conducting a poll on who was the biggest star of the spring in the SEC, and as this is written Georgia’s Tray Matthews is leading the vote.

It’s no wonder. As ESPN’s Chris Low puts it, Matthews “is only a true freshman who enrolled early” but he “played well enough this spring (and handed out enough bone-crunching licks) that he enters preseason camp as one of the starters at safety.”

Starting a true freshman at safety might be worrisome in a lot of cases, but Mark Richt noted recently that Matthews arrived in Athens “ready to play” and focused on winning a starting position, and “It may be tough to knock him out of the box.”

The hard-hitting Matthews was definitely the talk of spring practice among Georgia’s coaches and players and seems the natural answer when I’m asked, as I have been several times recently, who I see as one of the Dogs likely to have a breakout season in 2013.

But he’s not the only player who looks capable of breaking out of the pack to have a big season for Georgia.

Chris Conley turned a lot of heads with this scoring play against Nebraska. (Associated Press)

Chris Conley turned a lot of heads with this scoring play against Nebraska. (Associated Press)

Over on the offensive side there’s flanker Chris Conley, who finished last season with a lot of momentum after getting more playing time because of injuries. The rising junior had six touchdown catches last season, with two of them in the bowl game against Nebraska, including a beautiful 87-yard play. He also had a very productive spring. With defenses probably keying on Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett, Conley is likely to get some great opportunities as Aaron Murray’s third receiver.

Back on defense, another couple of players could have breakout seasons. Todd Grantham is very high on sophomore James DeLoach, who looks to be the likely starter at one of the outside linebacker spots (with Jordan Jenkins, who’s already considered a star-in-the-making, at the other).

And then, of course, there’s Josh Harvey-Clemons. The coaches are so high on the sophomore that they plan on starting him at strong safety and, more importantly, in the hybrid linebacker-safety “star” position when Georgia’s in its nickel defense, which is likely to be most of the time early in the season. Grantham basically guaranteed this spring that Harvey-Clemons will be one of his starting 11 this fall, no matter what, which is quite a vote of confidence.

Other players to watch? Expectations are growing for speedy receiver Justin Scott-Wesley and rangy G-Day star Jonathan Rumph. And a lot of folks can’t wait for the day that heralded receiver-tailback Tramel Terry, who appears to be recovering nicely from a torn ACL, takes the field.

Who do you see as the Dogs’ potential breakout stars?

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

62 comments Add your comment

Dawg_Mike

May 2nd, 2013
9:28 am

Definitely Tray Matthews. Kid has All American written all over him.

Rhino

May 2nd, 2013
9:43 am

Frosty Dawg

May 2nd, 2013
9:53 am

Probably all that you said, but I think Scott-Wesley may make the biggest jump of anyone who’s already seen playing time. And would love to see him return punts or kick-offs, putting that speed to use.

Fidlin1

May 2nd, 2013
9:54 am

I’ll be really interested to see how Theus matches up against Clowney in our second game. If that goes well Theus will be an All- American. That is ,of course, a tall order as Clowney is the best I’ve seen in a long time.

Bulldawg35

May 2nd, 2013
10:01 am

Tray Mathews …..Chris Conley….Mark Beard……Michael Thornton and James Deloach will be the break out players

NCDawg

May 2nd, 2013
10:02 am

Waiting to see what Drew does but right now I think Harvey-Clemons is going to be in a position to have stellar numbers. That hybrid nickel back might be the wave of the future and Harvey-Clemons appears to be a perfect fit. With Matthews looking like he will be at free safety, receivers will have to have their heads on a swivel. I don’t care what anyone says, if you get scrunched a few times over the middle, a receiver has to be thinking about self protection when a hard hitter is a safety.

If that defense can hold together early I think this fall may very well be the best season the Dawgs have had in a LONG time. That’s a big IF but hey it’s spring and the optimism is flowing.

aselle34

May 2nd, 2013
10:38 am

J. Taylor will have a solid year. Sheldon Dawson better be ready to play. Offenses will throw at him instead of Swann. X. Ward

DOGGONE CXII

May 2nd, 2013
10:54 am

I’m just excited about UGA football. GO DAWGS!!!

ARdawg

May 2nd, 2013
11:07 am

Apparently he didn’t have a good spring but, if Amarlo Herrea isn’t a defensive force to be reckoned with I will be surprised

beanster

May 2nd, 2013
11:19 am

I predict Faton Bauta has a breakout season.

Saw on the ticket order form that Tech tix are $90 a piece. Anyone know if those come with hotdogs and cokes?

Skokie Dog

May 2nd, 2013
11:26 am

Hutson Mason, AFTER the South Carolina game

Bulldawg35

May 2nd, 2013
11:58 am

Skokie…..

Mason is still in doubt of ever starting under center for UGA….deal with it. Murray will set new records this year

Bulldawg35

May 2nd, 2013
12:07 pm

I don’t think josh Harvey Clemons will have a break out year. Because I don’t think he can put enough weight on. The summer time will boost his metabolism….right now his metabolism is a curse!! Amarlo Herrera I don’t think CTG has a lot of confidence in him because he started mike g over him in the seccg…..but we will see how he does

The Masked Superstar

May 2nd, 2013
12:20 pm

Trey Matthews – plays with a mean streak we haven’t seen since Thomas Davis and Greg Blue.

NCDawg

May 2nd, 2013
12:25 pm

Skokie – ain’t happening. If the Dawgs lose that game it will be because our young D couldn’t stop SC.
The only way Mason gets the nod over Murray is if Murray is completely incapacitated (IE broken bone, shoulder, or knee injury).

LawDawg

May 2nd, 2013
12:41 pm

Hopefully Mike Thorton and Sterling Bailey will both have breakout seasons, lot of potential for DL players to break out – hopefully 3-4 of them do, Including Mayes, Johnson, or Ray Drew.

Skokie Dog

May 2nd, 2013
1:42 pm

@Bulldawg35 and NCDawg: I’m well aware that Mason won’t be offered the opportunity to play QB as long as Murray is able to go. I’m expecting Mr. Clowney to have a big game that day, forcing Richt to send in a substitute QB.

NCDawg

May 2nd, 2013
1:48 pm

Shawn Williams had a rep of being a big hitter but it always seemed to be a sling you around or clothesline like high tackle. I can’t remember a straight up stop you dead in your tracks hit from a safety since the Davis and Blue era.
Believe it or not it makes a difference how an opponent “perceives” your defense whether you have the talent or not. If a team sees bone jarring hits on their receivers every time they come across the middle that sticks with them. If what looks like an open hole is suddenly filled with a flying battering ram then subconsciously they will expect that every time. “He who hesitates is lost…” That is what a bonecrusher safety can do for your defense.
We’ve needed that for years.

NCDawg

May 2nd, 2013
1:57 pm

Skokie – Murray will have to be carted off the field for that to happen. If getting getting cheap shot blindsided by a 320 lbs lineman doesn’t knock you out of a game then you are a pretty tough cookie. Say what you will but there aren’t many QB’s that could come back from that kind of shot and still pick apart one of the best defenses in the country apart and almost win a game the way he did. Go back and look at the tape.

old junkyard DAWG

May 2nd, 2013
2:35 pm

I hope everyone has their mind right at the start of the season, word has it college gameday will be at clemson! HUNKER DOWN YOU HAIRY DAWGS

7576DAWG

May 2nd, 2013
3:11 pm

I think Gurley has a better year than he did last year and is a top 5 Heisman candidates at least by the 3rd game and stay’s there all season. I look for at least 1800 yards.

bigblackafricandawg

May 2nd, 2013
3:31 pm

Enter your comments here

bigblackafricandawg

May 2nd, 2013
3:32 pm

Bulldawg35

May 2nd, 2013
4:26 pm

Skokie….you are a liar….just admit it!!! You think mason will win the job in the summer….pathetic fantasises you have

Skokie Dog

May 2nd, 2013
4:29 pm

@Bulldawg35: No, I don’t believe that Mason will win the QB job in summer. There won’t be a competition for the position as long as Murray is ambulatory.

michael

May 2nd, 2013
5:08 pm

Everyone has forgotten about Michael Bennett. The best possession reciever in the nation, hands down!

AltamahaDawg

May 2nd, 2013
5:19 pm

Best use of a happy birthday song ever!

MIGHTY DAWGS!

May 2nd, 2013
5:54 pm

I believe Aaron Murray will have a break out season. He will destroy all the SEC records and win all the big games this year to lead the Bulldogs to there first National Championship in over thirty years. Watch!!!!!!!

Bill King

May 2nd, 2013
6:13 pm

Nobody’s forgotten about Michael Bennett, Aaron Murray and the other established stars of the team. When we talk about “breakout” players, we’re talking about players who are either new to the team or those who don’t have an established record of performance but look likely to become impact players this year. Bennett and Murray are already impact players.

MIGHTY DAWGS!

May 2nd, 2013
6:40 pm

Thanks Bill! I am just saying Aaron Murray will have his best season yet! He is going to shut the nay sayers up by winning all the big games too this year! Speaking of Michael Bennett! How is his knee coming along? Will he be able to play at the start of the season? If he can he will be the most reliable receiver Georgia has. If only he had not went down last year! GO DAWGS!!!!!

AltamahaDawg

May 2nd, 2013
7:44 pm

There are 3 naysayers. (17 if you count thier alias) All blog trolls. Nothing will shut them up.

bubba4dawgs

May 2nd, 2013
9:10 pm

The DAWGS are loaded, for sure! I’m an optimist about this season! I think the DAWGS are hungry after losing the championship game the way they did. I believe they’re focused but it’ll take a couple or three games to get their rhythm. Let’s hope it takes Clemson, SC and LSU the same or more time to jell. Great balance on the team for a strong offense. If the “D” shows up, it will be a great year!! GO DAWGS!!

UGA Advocate

May 2nd, 2013
9:29 pm

Drew, Bailey or Rumph…I’m so excited for what next year will bring. I’m just so sick and tired of everyone saying we’ll be 1-3 after 4 games. Some of these UGA hater act as if we are the only team that lose players!!!! I’m fully confident in my DAWGS..by the way…I’m the only guy riding around CHICAGO, IL with a Go Dawgs plate and a miniature UGA in my back window. UGA Dawg til I die……

Dog4Life

May 3rd, 2013
8:31 am

I just finished an article in Sports Illustrated and USA Today concerning the Arkansas Razorbacks Baseball team. They swept UGA over the past weekend in Athens and they are penalized points in the RPI. That says all I need to know about Perno and the direction of UGA baseball; a team sweeps you and it hurts their strength of schedule. McGarity has to consider a change here and this time recruit a quality coach who is a proven recruiter; Perno remains the Ray Goff of UGA baseball.

NCDawg

May 3rd, 2013
9:23 am

Dog4Life – McGarity hasn’t fired anyone mid-season and he won’t. He puts great stock in being consistent. This season is toast and I’m sure everybody in the baseball program knows that Perno is out unless the team suddenly goes on a hot streak and looks like it is playing great baseball all they way to the end of the season. I think that is the only thing that could save him. I don’t see that happening so a few days after the season ends he will be gone.

NCDawg

May 3rd, 2013
9:26 am

they = the fricking fingers

NCDawg

May 3rd, 2013
9:45 am

UGA Advocate – we won’t be 1-3. However… the Clemson game is huge as a trend setter. It all comes down to whether or not our offense comes out of the gate hot. We cannot have a slow start offensively. I am sure there will be busted coverages and such early in the game for the Dawgs so it comes down to how well the young pups deal with it. The offense has to take the pressure off by scoring early and often.
That said, I guess I could live with both teams struggling early.

NCDawg

May 3rd, 2013
9:55 am

SC depends on how things go in the Clemson game. Spurrier always plays mind games… any ammo we give him from the Clemson game will end up thrown in our laps. He obsesses over Georgia and always has. If Murray looks solid in the Clemson game look for Spurrier to rave about him and say they should hand the Heisman to him right then. He will try to sandbag our defense too. Can’t wait to watch him throw his visor a zillion times that night.

McDawg

May 3rd, 2013
11:51 am

just hope the O-Line is ready from the get go

hornblowermg

May 3rd, 2013
12:04 pm

i would still rather have Hutson Mason. he is the better talent without the opportunity. we don’t need murray’s publicist’s opinion on the subject; just the facts.

UnderDawg

May 3rd, 2013
12:48 pm

Reggie Carter on D. Most of the O is already established. Obviously Conley, Scott Wesley, or Jay Rome would be candidates (although i don’t think scott wesley will do much). So i gotta go with O line and say Xavier Ward

UGA Insider

May 3rd, 2013
12:50 pm

You guys ask me this every year and every season I am correct. This year the winner will be Ramik Wilson and or Sterling Bailey. Honorable mention will be Ray Drew.

Spike

May 3rd, 2013
1:04 pm

Michael Bennett. Has hands like Kris Durham. Throw him the rock!!

Bulldawg35

May 3rd, 2013
1:07 pm

Skokie you should of said that to begin with….I guess u didn’t expect to get so criticised did u my brother???

Dawghater 101

May 3rd, 2013
3:24 pm

Who cares as u will suck this season anyway. I see a 1-3 start pups!!!

Dawghater 101

May 3rd, 2013
3:25 pm

And Bulldawg35 is a complete idiot with no football knowledge

Dawghater 101

May 3rd, 2013
3:26 pm

And can someone explain football to Bulldawg35 as he is a moron…

Smarticus

May 3rd, 2013
4:32 pm

If the D can improve on last year, we truly have a legitimate shot to go all the way as long as da Preacha Man doesn’t return to his complacent natural state…

Preacha Man excels only when his hindie is feeling the heat…

LeoDawg

May 3rd, 2013
5:40 pm

The behind enemy lines dawg fan in knoxville, Tn. I thing Gurley will will have a great year but Marshall will have a breakout season. He is primed and ready to go. CMR did not get him the number of carries last year but he will shock the SEC this season.

Bulldawg35

May 3rd, 2013
6:33 pm

Dawg hater…..you’re disgusting moron….I know one thing for sure….we will beat tech!! Now go hop back into your cess pool